Hey, everyone! Apollo’s resident prospect writer checking in for the new season. With Spring Training around the corner, I’ll try to give an idea of what and who to watch out for. Below will be a top-down, thorough detailing of the state of Houston’s farm system and the Astros’ top prospects. I like to include a “reminds me of” comparison at the end of my blurbs, but those are not projections. They are, however, meant to give an idea of the player’s archetype. Table up top, analysis with stats and video clips of each player to follow.
Astros’ Top Prospects
|#1. Hunter Brown||24||RHSP||MLB||2022|
|#2. Drew Gilbert||22||CF||A||2025|
|#3. Yainer Diaz||24||C/1B||MLB||2022|
|#4. Pedro Leon||24||CF/MIF||AAA||2023|
|#5. Colin Barber||22||OF||AA||2024|
|#6. David Hensley||27||UTIL||MLB||2022|
|#7. Spencer Arrighetti||23||RHP||AA||2024|
|#8. Jacob Melton||22||OF||A||2026|
|#9. Joe Perez||23||3B||AAA||2023|
|#10. Korey Lee||24||C||AAA||2023|
|#11. Ryan Clifford||19||1B/COF||A||2027|
|#12. Misael Tamarez||23||RHP||AAA||2024|
|#13. Will Wagner||24||IF||AA||2024|
|#14. Michael Knorr||22||RHSP||A||2026|
|#15. Shawn Dubin||27||RHP||AAA||2023|
|#16. Forrest Whitley||25||RHP||AAA||2023|
|#17. Colton Gordon||24||LHP||A+||2025|
|#18. Joey Loperfido||23||OF/2B/1B||A+||2024|
|#19. Miguel Ullola||21||RHP||A||2025|
|#20. Kenedy Corona||23||OF||A+||2024|
|#21. Jaime Melendez||21||RHP||AA||2024|
|#22. Justin Dirden||25||COF||AAA||2023|
|#23. Andrew Taylor||21||RHP||A||2027|
|#24. Luke Berryhill||24||C||AA||2023|
|#25. Jayden Murray||25||RHP||AAA||2023|
|#26. Camilo Diaz||17||SS||DSL||2029|
|#27. Zach Daniels||24||OF||A+||2024|
|#28. Zach Dezenzo||23||IF/COF||A||2026|
|#29. Logan Cerny||23||OF||A||2025|
|#30. Collin Price||23||C||A||2026|
|#31. Quincy Hamilton||24||OF||AA||2024|
|#32. Kenni Gomez||17||OF||DSL||2028|
|#33. Tyler Guilfoil||23||RHP||A||2024|
|#34. Cristian Gonzalez||21||SS||A+||2026|
|#35. Alex Santos II||21||RHP||A||2025|
|#36. Tyler Whitaker||20||IF/OF||A||2026|
|#37. Parker Mushinski||27||LHP||MLB||2022|
|#38. Edinson Batista||20||RHP||A+||2026|
|#39. Nolan DeVos||22||RHP||A||2026|
|#40. Ronel Blanco||29||RHP||MLB||2022|
#1. Hunter Brown (RHP, 24, MLB, ETA: 2022)
Fastball: 60/60, Curve: 70/70, Slider: 60/60, Changeup: 55/55, Command: 40/45, Sits 96.3 MPH, Tops 100.1 MPH
A global top 50 pitching prospect now, Hunter Brown rose up the ranks in 2022 by striking out everybody in sight while beginning to handle a true starter’s workload. After posting a 31.5 K% over 106 AAA innings, and then a 0.89 ERA over 20 MLB ones, Brown’s stock has skyrocketed. Easily earning him the #1 spot on the list of the Astros’ Top Prospects. His fastball sits upper 90s and brushes triple digits. With 16 inches of IVB (Induced Vertical Break) and a 5 VAA (Vertical Approach Angle) due to his preference for pounding his fastball down in the zone, Brown’s fastball is best designated as a plus offering instead of some generational outlier. With that location though, the heater does induce ground balls at a surprising clip for a 4-seamer with some ride. Meanwhile, Brown’s curveball is one of the best pitches in baseball. When not inducing whiffs (which it did more than 30% of the time, as did his fastball and changeup), the sharp biting Glasnow-esque curve in the mid-80s generated nearly a 70 groundball% through 53 batted balls in AAA. Pair that with a slider that can touch 95 MPH and a plus changeup that he hardly ever needs to use, and Brown stacks up favorably with plenty of frontline starters. There aren’t many arms anywhere who can combine this fastball with two breakers of Brown’s quality, but Houston has another developmental success story here – out of a D2 school, no less. Imperfect command can drag down the total package, but with a big, durable frame and unproblematic delivery Brown should be able to fill the zone up just enough to reach his frontline caliber outlook.
Reminds me of: Dylan Cease’s arsenal + spotty command combo, if it managed contact better instead of blowing everybody’s doors off all the time.
#2. Drew Gilbert (OF, 22, A, ETA: 2025)
Hit: 45/60, Power: 50/60, Run: 60/60, Field: 60/60, Arm: 60
Houston’s first-round selection in 2022, Gilbert is a model-driven team’s dreamboat. His batted-ball quality in college was absurd. Many teams passed on Gilbert due at least in part to his stocky 5’9 frame. Astros fans, more than most, will likely find joy in the idea of rooting for another surprisingly powerful, undersized kid. This one hailing from Minnesota instead of Venezuela. Gilbert tore up the SEC with a 1.228 OPS at Tennesee and then showed out well in his 10 games of pro ball before suffering a season-ending injury up against the outfield wall. He displays prodigious pull-side pop and the right combination of barrel dexterity and willingness to square up any ball where it’s pitched. You may have heard it’s a contact-over-power profile elsewhere. With a 94.1 AVG EV and a 111 Max, don’t sleep on the power either, although it will take a slight approach tweak for Gilbert to consistently get his quick barrel to tap in. Gilbert is a flashy, bat-flipping 5-tool profile, even if none of them are necessarily double-plus. Physically maxed out with elite on-field instincts, he’s got the best shot in this system to stick in center field and post a 20-20 season atop a big-league lineup sooner rather than later. He’s #2 on my Astros Top Prospect list.
Reminds me of: Andrew Benintendi with a little more raw power.
#3. Yainer Diaz (C, 24, MLB, ETA: 2022)
Hit: 55/55, Power: 60/60, Run: 30/30, Field: 40/45, Arm: 55.
Yainer Diaz might be a catcher, and he might not. What he will almost certainly do is hit the ball when given ample opportunity. And if the pitcher decides to give him nothing to hit, Yainer simply creates his own opportunity, with an absolutely ludicrous 42.3% O-Swing rate that still produces positive results. He goes up there hacking, and came out of this most recent AAA season with Sugar Land’s highest average exit velocity overall, and the highest EV on fly balls and liners. Diaz’s 113.2 MPH Max EV indicates plus raw pop, and his swing is geared to generate that elite contact quality in the air, over the power alleys. With no problem recognizing spin (whiff rates under 30% on both fastballs and offspeeds), there’s very little reason to think that Yainer can’t simply keep swinging his way into offensive production in MLB, in a similar manner to Salvador Perez’s chase-happy plate approach.
Defensively, Diaz bounced around C, 1B, and DH through 2022. The Astros have a stacked lineup and a shiny new ironman, Jose Abreu, standing in Diaz’s way at first, but there’s a spot open in the catcher timeshare. While not an actual butcher behind the plate, Yainer will have to improve his framing metrics a touch if the Astros are to hand him the keys. Especially in the rapidly approaching post-Maldonado era. It’s probably development on receiving and game-calling, and not general athleticism concerns, that will determine how much Diaz plays catcher moving forward. His arm is solid, and he moves acceptably behind the plate. Accordingly, studying under Maldonado’s tutelage, whom the Astros certainly revere, may tilt the scales in Diaz’s favor defensively.
Reminds me of: Salvador Perez without any of the defensive positives.
#4. Pedro Leon (OF/IF, 24, AAA, ETA: 2023)
Hit: 30/35, Power: 60/60, Run: 70/70, Field (OF): 55/60, Field (IF): 35/50, Arm: 80
Leon is a 5’9 physical freak with massive rotational power, a cannon arm, elite speed, some manufactured defensive versatility, and big red flags around his overall bat-to-ball ability. His visual hit tool evaluation often comes across even worse than how the numbers pan out. He ran an 80.7% z-Con%, and a 31.3 Whiff% through the full AAA season, indicating a hit tool that certainly lags but might not be the death sentence as advertised elsewhere. To that point, Leon’s overall patience led to a palatable but below-average 13.5 SwStr% and 14% walk rate. When Leon does make flush contact, he smokes the ball, with Sugar Land’s highest 90th percentile exit velocity of 108.1 MPH(!) and 80th percentile of 104.3 MPH, often enough at the right launch angles for damage. Those are truly top-of-the-scale EVs – the 90th exactly mirroring Mets’ top prospect Brett Baty’s, who consistently gets crowned with 70 power.
The overall offensive profile is a lot like if Matt Chapman was a CF burner, but toolsy outfielders with contact concerns flame out often. Leon in particular doesn’t have much wiggle room left until the hit tool craters. Defensively, the Astros moved Leon around both middle infield spots as well as the outfield, in an attempt to manufacture some versatility. He looks like a solid regular in all three OF spots who makes up for unimpressive jumps with foot speed, but showed amateurish infield footwork and an inconsistent glove on the dirt, especially turning double plays from 2B. From anywhere, his double-plus arm is incredibly fun to watch because the dude can put on a laser show. Leon more than most would have benefitted from showing out against big league arms in Spring Training, but he underwent a sports hernia operation in late January and probably won’t be able to join in on the fun.
Reminds me of: Chris Carter’s bat in Cedric Mullins’s body.
#5. Colin Barber, (OF, 22, AA, ETA: 2024)
Hit: 45/70, Power: 35/45, Run: 55/55, Field: 45/55, Arm: 55
Colin Barber lands at #5 on my Astros Top Prospect ranking. Barber’s had his career arc stunted by an early shoulder surgery and the lost 2020, but is still knocking on the door of AA at 22. He displays excellent bat-to-ball skills, with a 91.4 in-zone contact rate while the overall plate approach goes through some necessary evolution. To dream on Barber is to fall in love with a beautiful, picturesque, compact lefty swing geared for alley power and a decent understanding of the strike zone, as reflected by his 9.7 SwStr% in 2022. The quality of contact is not as good as you might expect given his excellent overall slash lines thus far as a pro, with a bad average exit velocity and only a handful of batted balls 100+ MPH at optimal launch angles, but Barber’s professional, controlled approach also leads to tons of pulled contact in the air. Pulled fly balls don’t need to be hit that hard to be productive, as Alex Bregman would tell you. And Barber does actually have the raw power to dream on, with max EVs north of 110. It’s just a question of whether he will tap into it more as he advances, and I wouldn’t close the book on Barber due to some spotty data in his half-season post-shoulder surgery. Even if he doesn’t improve the EVs, there’s a relatively punchless on-base and hit tool floor that could still play, although more as a tightrope act, entirely dependent on his discipline.
Defensively, Barber profiles as a center fielder for now, but he’s still not physically maxed out, and if the body fills out anymore, a move to a corner would be in the cards. He’s a solid athlete, and I doubt the foot speed ever gets below average but also isn’t the type of ball-hawking plus center fielder that makes me comfortable tagging him there forever. If he does fill out, that likely results in some power coming around, and there’s nothing wrong with an on-base-minded corner outfielder with pop and defensive value – it’s just a little less flashy than the 20-20 center field ceiling.
Reminds me of: Brandon Nimmo
#6. David Hensley (UTIL, 27, MLB, ETA: 2022)
Hit: 55/55, Power: 40/50, Run: 50/50, Field (1B) 70/70, (IF) 50/50, Arm: 50
David Hensley is going to step right into Aledmys Diaz’s role on the 2023 Astros as their de facto utility man. He’s got a double-plus first base glove, can play capably at the other 3 infield positions, and started moving out to corner outfield spots at the tail end of 2022. Offensively, Hensley produced well above average for two full seasons, hitting nearly .300 at the upper levels of the minor leagues, before posting a 194 wRC+ in his brief big league debut last fall. At the plate, he’s so patient it’s almost problematic. In his full season of AAA work, he took called strikes as often as he whiffed and ran a 7.5 SwStr% (League average, for reference, is around 11%). Additionally, Hensley generates elite raw power with the leverage his 6’6 frame affords, with Sugar Land’s highest max EV batted ball, at 114.4 MPH. An extremely flat bat path means that his raw power rarely gets translated into home runs, as Hensley’s hardest batted balls are often on the ground, or occasionally stung on an opposite-field line drive. At 27, the organization has likely tried to steepen the bat path, or get the barrel out in front more consistently already. Even without any further adjustment, Hensley looks like a fringy above-average hit tool, double-digit homer type utility stick. He also swiped 20 bags last year. All told, Hensley landing this high on the Astros Top Prospect list is a remarkable success story for a 2018 draft pick taken so late the round doesn’t even exist anymore.
Reminds me of: Ben Zobrist
#7. Spencer Arrighetti (RHP, 23, AA, ETA: 2024)
Fastball: 55/55, Slider: 60/70, Curve: 50/50, Changeup: 40/55, Command: 35/45, Sits 92-95, T 98.2 MPH.
Baseball America tagged Spencer Arrighetti with the system’s best slider, and it’s hard to argue. He was 17th on my Astros Top Prospects list last season, and has continued to fly under the radar on lists elsewhere while mowing down age-appropriate competition. I was concerned with how the fastball would play as he advances, but if anything it looked livelier and more dominant at AA than his previous stops. A young college draftee who barely pitched in college, Arrighetti just keeps improving. He hurled 100 innings for the first time ever last year, including college, which assuages some workload concerns. The slim righty pairs a low release – thanks to his athletic drop-and-drive delivery – with a ride-heavy fastball and a fantastic, tight slider that mirrors the heater’s axis. His fastball works well no matter where he places it, including blowing up AA hitters in the middle of the zone. Same-handed batters have fits picking up either pitch and Arrighetti’s third offering, an average-looking high-70s yakker, comes out against lefties. It’s all very much like Lance McCullers Jr.’s pitch usage with the big boys, once he developed a slider of his own. As Arrighetti’s AA campaign progressed, he started throwing his elusive changeup more and more. It flashed devastating movement, and his confidence with the offering seemed to grow each time out there. Spencer’s a plus mound athlete, and his arm action is fluid on release, but there’s a lot of sway in the delivery that makes plus command difficult to dream on. He’s a grade of command shy of profiling as a K-heavy mid-rotation starter, and 2023 is when that improvement would come. Without improvement, he’s tracking like a good reliever, having never dipped below 31.6 K% at any stop – often higher.
Reminds me of: Kevin Gausman
#8. Jacob Melton (OF, 22, A, ETA: 2026)
Hit: 35/50, Power: 40/55, Run: 55/55, Field: 55/55, Throw: 55
After Drew Gilbert, the Astros selected another lefty hitting college center fielder with good batted ball data in the second round. I suppose they have a type. Melton has a suite of average to above average tools, and comes with a high floor despite some polarizing opinions on his swing decisions and visual hit tool evaluation. A 111.7 MPH Max EV and solid 80th percentile outcomes tabs him with above average power, both raw and in-game, and the hit tool may come along even better than expected in a Houston organization that has tended to maximize these well-rounded archetypes. He’s got a weird foot-in-the-bucket setup at the plate, which you can see below, but still manages to get on time and manipulates his barrel quite effectively. It can get flat in the lower half of the zone, but the backspin profile in college was impressive. Melton sprays the ball over the field, and looks to cash in on dead center home run power. He’s a 45/50 in center field while definitely plus in either corner defensively. I’ll be able to say more when I get my hands on more data, or get to watch for a more extended period of time.
Reminds me of: Paul O’Neill.
#9. Joe Perez (3B, 23, AAA, ETA: 2023)
Hit: 40/50, Power: 50/60, Run: 40/40, Field: 40/45, Arm: 70
While the overall offensive production took a step back, Perez flashed a hit tool better than advertised in his injury-riddled 2022 and forced his way up this list instead of down. He nursed an oblique injury through the first half of the season, and the power output dropped. Visually, Perez has always hit like his barrel is made of cement and even in my limited observations of data I have a max EV of 110.1 MPH from his 8-game promotion in AAA at the end of the year. Accordingly, any evaluator dropping the power projection may be missing the forest in the trees here. I’ve been a fan of his approach for a while now, keeping the strikeout rate mostly intact while looking to smoke the ball into either power alley – capable of adjusting inside-outside and not too overmatched on spin. Perez will likely look to add more loft into his swing, with game changing power potential if he does. On visual eval, he especially impresses with an ability to handle vertical break and golf low offspeeds out to dead center at his best. It’s an admittedly small sample, but I’ve got a 17% whiff rate on offspeeds in AAA. Last year, I noted that Perez’s previous reputation as a high-variance, power-dominant slugger does not match the refined hitter visible in the batter’s box. He just hit .290 in 2022 while battling injury, so I’ll double down on that and buy in to the power improving along with some health.
Reminds me of: Nick Castellanos
#10. Korey Lee (C, 24, AAA, ETA: 2022)
Hit: 30/35, Power: 55/55, Run: 50/50, Field: 55/55, Arm: 70.
Lee’s defense and modest power made him a big leaguer, but what will determine how long he’ll stay there is his ability to consistently put wood to ball. If you’re worried about Pedro Leon’s hit tool progression, it’s probably not overly encouraging to learn that Lee made less contact in-zone, chased more, whiffed more, ran a 17.4 SwStr%, and whiffed on 42% of the non-fastballs he saw. There are still some reasons for optimism: One, Lee is at least MLB average defensively at the catcher position, mashed 25 homers, and can therefore theoretically provide on-field value even if those issues remain prevalent. Two, he’s newly 24 years old and skyrocketed aggressively through the minor leagues after a lost 2020. We aren’t far removed from a 2021 campaign where Lee kept the K rate under 20%. The book certainly isn’t closed on simple bat-to-ball progression, although I have my reservations more generally about prospects who struggle at picking up spin and their likelihood of improving in that aspect. Lee’s approach is also so pull-heavy that it will be easy to exploit.
Defensively, Lee is as advertised. He stays on a knee at all times to improve the framing, seems to call a fine game, and snipes would-be base thieves with his bazooka arm rivaling Maldonado’s. The hose might be more important with the new rules going into 2023, and could bump Lee’s utility up accordingly.
Reminds me of: Ryan Doumit with a Megaman style cannon strapped to his right shoulder.
#11. Ryan Clifford (1B/COF, 19, A, ETA: 2027)
Hit: 25/40, Power: 40/60, Run: 40/40, Field (1B): 35/55, Field (OF): 35/45, Arm: 50
Clifford, one of the more prominent prep bats in the country, signed with the Astros for every penny they could scrape up with slot savings through the first 10 rounds of 2022’s Rule 4 Draft. His pristine plate approach, especially for a 19 year old, drives a long-term middle of the order outlook along with an easy plus power projection. The bat speed isn’t overly visually impressive, so Clifford really muscles up his extra base hits more often than not. However, the all-fields power is real. He doesn’t chase much at all, and looks like he’ll walk and slug his way into productive slashlines. In fact, he already is, showing out well in an advanced full-season Fayetteville assignment along with all the college signees, posting an .802 OPS. Under the hood, his contact rates didn’t look great but it’s hard to be too discouraged by above average production in an advanced assignment – he was 18 years old, handling full-season ball quite well when you zoom out.
Reminds me of: Seth Beer, less hit tool certainty but a more fluid athlete capable of playing in the field.
#12. Misael Tamarez (RHP, 23, AAA, ETA: 2024)
Fastball: 55/55, Slider: 50/60, Changeup: 60/60, Curve: 30/40, Command: 30/40, Sits 94.1 MPH, T97.
If you’re sick of me sounding the horn on Misael Tamarez, I could hardly blame you. Since 2021, I’ve been labeling him a fiery and moldable mid-90s workhorse who projected to add some offspeeds and perhaps become the organization’s next Luis Garcia. Originally a fastball-changeup only relief projection, Tamarez has since added a hard gyro slider averaging 85.6 MPH and experimented, beginning in the back half of 2022, with a true curveball in the low 80s. Since the addition of the slider, he hasn’t dipped under 28 K% at any minor league stop. He’s still most likely cast as a reliever, especially considering the high-effort release and dramatic fall-off towards first base. On the other hand, his over-the-top arm slot is more extension-efficient than you’d guess on the eye test and the dude keeps making all the right adjustments. Tamarez lacks a starter’s control at present, especially with his fastball, but zones his new slider particularly well even if feel for the changeup, which was once his bread and butter, comes and goes. At 23 years old for his upcoming AAA campaign, this will be an important show-me year for command gains. Even a small amount of strike-throwing improvement would put a starter’s outlook on the table. And if the fastball ticks up, it’s going to be hard to shut me up. Tamarez is my favorite prospect to be Houston’s fourth inclusion in the pipeline of older international signings whom every outlet designates as relievers that turn to starting rotation stalwarts.
Reminds me of: Luis Severino
#13. Will Wagner (IF, 24, AA, ETA: 2024)
Hit: 45/50, Power: 35/40, Run: 40/40, Field: 50/50, Arm: 45
Wagner was an impressive visual hit tool eval, earning him an 18th round selection in 2021’s draft out of Liberty. Billy Wagner’s son went on to perform well at the low levels of the minors, with a career 114 wRC+ so far.
His batted ball quality doesn’t pop off the page, but Wagner’s plate discipline, hit tool, and non-zero pop create a potential everyday regular who can play all over the infield, profiling best at third base. Wagner also just put up the best show of his life in the Arizona Fall League, smashing 11 extra base hits in 52 ABs en route to an 1.145 OPS. All his home run power is restricted to the pull side, which he gets to a little infrequently. But Wagner’s barrel moves dexterously through the zone and he hits a lot of hard opposite field contact – it just won’t go over fences much. With a smooth uncoil to catch up to premium velocity and a discerning eye for spin, Wagner’s liable to become another late-round “where’d he come from” marginal big league contributor. He should probably start the year in AAA for 2023. Just don’t expect 20+ big league homers without a massive approach overhaul, even if he does that in the hitter-friendly PCL.
Reminds me of: Nathaniel Lowe if he had a 15-home-run outlook…and played third base.
#14. Michael Knorr (RHP, 23, A, ETA: 2026)
Fastball: 50/60, Slider: 50/60, Curve: 40/60, Changeup: 40/50, Command: 45/55, Sits 93-97, T99 MPH.
Nothing has changed for Knorr since my last write-up, since he did not make his pro debut after being selected in the third round of the 2022 draft – instead electing for pitching lab work, probably a good call. But Knorr showed a lot of clay for an older college signee. An upper 90s fastball with mediocre shape and more run than rise, a big two-plane curveball that flashes plus, and a tight gyro slider in the low 80s exist elsewhere throughout the system. Knorr, unlike the others, has rock solid command, a smooth delivery, and some corner-painting ability that make him definitively an SP prospect, without the requisite relief risk of all the 30 command types. He’s also got the traditional starter’s frame, for whatever that’s worth, and holds his velocity well throughout his starts. Both offspeed shapes look like they can be built on, and this is one of the organizations to do that. Projecting a velo bump after his first professional offseason, much like Hunter Brown, is not out of the question.
Reminds me of: Joe Musgrove. Even the deliveries are the same.
#15. Shawn Dubin (RHP, 27, AAA, ETA: 2023)
Fastball: 70/70, Slider: 70/70, Curve: 60/60, Cutter: 60/60, Changeup: 35/35, Command: 35/40, Sits 96.7, T101.1 MPH.
Shawn Dubin is such a model darling that I will never be able to quit him. The Astros keep running him out as a tandem starter, although he’s best suited for single-inning relief. I maintain that he’d be in the upper half of Houston’s big league bullpen, a group that was the best in baseball last season and still entirely intact, if he was up with the team. The former NAIA standout keeps going down with forearm injuries, and the most likely takeaway is that his rail-thin frame simply cannot withstand this type of vicious stuff. Dubin manages to throw 50 innings every year, but rarely any more than that, and often while fighting nagging injuries. But to discuss the pitch grades: Shawn Dubin’s four-seamer topped at 101.1 MPH last season and has late explosive life, with an approach angle that leaves hitters spinning out like figure skaters when placed up in the zone – and freezes them at the bottom. He has four pitches which ran CSW%’s north of 30. The elite slider has a demonic velocity and sweep combination, with a near 4 Horizontal Approach Angle (HAA) and mid-80s velocity, spinning at 2840 RPM. The curveball is clearly plus as well, displaying above average drop and sweep for its velocity. Almost just because he can, Dubin joined many others in the system by adding a cutter last year. Unlike many others, Dubin’s cutter runs all the way up to 92.4 MPH. It’s a full arsenal most could only dream of, if he can just stay healthy enough to achieve his backend relief outlook.
Reminds me of: Dillon Maples
#16. Forrest Whitley (RHP, 25, AAA, ETA: 2023)
Fastball: 55/55, Sinker: 60/60, Curve: 70/70, Cutter: 60/60, Slider: 50/50, Changeup: 70/70, Command: 35/45, Sits 95.2, T 99.6 MPH.
The injury-prone lottery tickets are back-to-back on my list of the Astros Top Prospects, as God intended. Whitley slides behind Dubin because they both have single inning relief outlooks for now, with the potential for 100 inning fireman roles if everything goes according to plan. To add on to his slide, Whitley’s four-seam fastball shape is coming dangerously close to the dead zone – or at least was in his 33 innings of work in 2022. On the plus side, the mid-90s sinker still looks good in a vacuum and he’s back chunking up to 100 MPH with his four-seam despite its shape. Whitley flashed the same unicorn movement profiles on a curveball and changeup that made him a top prospect, and developed a low-90s cutter of his own – which he relies on a lot, now, often preferring it to the old slider. He also no longer spikes an uncompetitive offering into the grass once per at-bat like he did when he was 20. The body is actually getting more connected even after all the injuries. Forrest’s walks in 2022 were much more a product of nibbling around the zone, rather than true wildness. If there’s anyone to keep your eyes glued on in Spring Training, this is probably the guy, because the long-term range of outcomes couldn’t be more broad. He does look like he’s finally having a lot of fun pitching again, this offseason.
Reminds me of: Stephen Strasburg
#17. Colton Gordon (LHP, 24, A+, ETA: 2024)
Fastball: 45/50, Slider: 50/50, Curve: 45/60, Changeup: 55/55, Command: 45/60, Sits 90-93, T95 MPH.
Colton Gordon completely demolished the low levels of the minors in his first affiliated work post-Tommy John. The arsenal even looks a little better than it did at UCF, and he’s only this low on the list because of age-to-level concerns. I’d have Gordon start 2023 at AA. He represents one of the more high-floored arms left in the system. A fantastic mover who gets way down the mound, long levered and with some cross-body deception, Gordon’s low 90s fastball plays past its radar reading at the top of the zone. He’s also got three whiff-inducing offspeeds to mix and match. The slider has sharp horizontal tilt, differentiating well off a big sweeping curveball that he occasionally fails to bury effectively. Gordon, a good pronator, relies heavily on his change piece against righties due to his advanced feel for placement, falling off the low and outside corner. He works quickly, fills up the zone, and was stretched out to a starter’s workload only 18 months post surgery. I’d be worried about more advanced hitters pouncing on poorly located fastballs at the upper levels, but with an unproblematic pitch shape and good command Gordon might spin and win his way to a rotation spot. If not, he seems a polished, junkballing lefty relief look.
Reminds me of: Sean Manaea.
#18. Joey Loperfido (OF/2B/1B, 23, A+, ETA: 2024)
Hit: 35/45, Power: 35/45, Run: 60/60, Field (OF): 50/55, (2B): 45/50, (1B): 60/70, Arm: 45.
So far, professional baseball has brought about a Tale of Two Loperfidos. I was completely out after watching his pro debut in 2021 and mechanics at Duke, mentally attributing an A-ball Joey Gallo comp due to his steep bat angle and penchant for violent whiffs, never even close to a high fastball. In 2022, Loperfido showed up with a quicker stroke to the ball, selling out for a line drive approach with total zone coverage, resulting in beautiful spray charts – both power alleys got filled up with dots like a Rorschach. He cut his strikeout rate from 35% to 21%, and Loperfido has always shown a discerning batter’s eye. Usually, these up-the-middle gamer defensive prospects go the other way, as a steeper bat angle leads to more power gains. Loperfido needed to dial his back, as his athletic 6’4 frame generates plenty of leverage on its own. There’s still some power projection left, and 2021’s 7th round selection is athletic enough to cover center field more than capably. Additionally, he dons infield gloves, with enough range to stand at the keystone and the body and defensive chops to develop into a truly elite defensive first baseman.
Reminds me of: Jake Cronenworth
#19. Miguel Ullola (RHP, 20, A, ETA: 2025)
Fastball: 60/70, Slider: 50/60, Command: 30/40, Sits 93-96 , T98MPH.
It’s 95-and-a-slider time! Ullola’s higher than most would be, because he’s so dominant for being so young and the command can get a lot more polished. 6’1 with a wide-shouldered frame, Ullola’s power fastball with good shape runs up to 98 and I’d be surprised not to see triple digits in the near future. A lack of Bryan Abreu’s type of 80-grade breaking ball means Ullola is less of a can’t-miss arm, but the slider does dart out of the picture the way you’d ask for it to. Ullola’s delivery is remarkably controlled and repeatable for how wild he is by the box scores – something I often attributed to Abreu as well. If he could add a cutter or curveball, I wouldn’t put a starting outlook completely off the table. Ullola goes 5 innings occasionally at present, but he’s both overpowering (38.3 K%) and wild (17.6 BB%) enough that the command is a sufficient project for now, and adding pitches is probably an issue best tackled down the road.
Reminds me of: Bryan Abreu
#20. Kenedy Corona (OF, 23, A+, ETA: 2024)
Hit: 35/45, Power: 40/50, Run: 60/60, Field: 45/50, Arm: 50.
I had Corona inside a top 34 list back in 2021, where he promptly put up an 80 wRC+ over a full season, but I should have stuck by my convictions on visual evaluation. His outlook now comes in a different shape. I couldn’t have predicted a swing path tweak that’s allowed him to approach a 20+ homer outlook, but that’s exactly what the toolsy Venezuelan outfielder showed up with in 2022. When I got my first looks, I noted Corona as an intriguing tweener outfielder with tons of twitchy athleticism and a nice line drive approach, who moved his barrel around the zone well.
He’s still hitting too many ground balls at present, which was almost entirely the cause of his poor 2021. He’s hitting them harder now though, with better results and flashing better discipline to boot. In between the worm burners, Corona’s new attack angle allowed him to pound 19 homers in just 107 games across two levels, swiping 28 bags for good measure. Only 3 of those homers were in hitter-friendly Asheville, so they aren’t wall-scrapers. He’ll go as far as this new approach can be refined. Overall, Corona looks significantly more interesting than he ever has, now a potential flashy three-spot outfielder with actualizing power, whose jersey is always dirty.
Reminds me of: Tommy Pham
#21. Jaime Melendez (RHP, 21, AA, ETA: 2024)
Fastball: 60/60, Slider: 40/45, Curve: 45/50, Changeup: 55/55, Command: 25/35, Sits 93-95 T96 MPH.
Melendez is an undersized multi-inning relief look with a carrying mid-90s fastball that he works well into the top of the zone, occasionally blowing the doors off hitters. I’m also a fan of his changeup’s profile and his willingness to utilize it against both handednesses. A four pitch mix lets you dream on an eventual back of the rotation landing spot, but the command hasn’t gotten much better over the last two seasons. He pairs a fine but below-average slider with a 12-6 curveball, using the former against same handed batters and the latter against southpaws. The whole delivery is more controlled than you’d expect given Melendez’s 5’8 stature and plus velocity, but he really does need to stop walking people one of these years to make the big leagues. Melendez was a 19 year old in AA and has always been young for his level, so he’s got some runway to achieve the necessary endpoint.
Reminds me of: Deivi Garcia
#22. Justin Dirden (25, OF, AAA, ETA: 2023)
Hit: 40/50, Power: 45/45, Run: 40/40, Field: 40/45, Arm: 55.
Dirden, a standout UDFA signing after the shortened 2020 draft, posted impressive production across every minor league stop until a brief stall-out in AAA at the tail end of 2022. He’s got a little bit of a caveman appearance at the plate, but does display a knack for moving his barrel around the zone through his unorthodox, stabby swing and an advanced understanding on which pitches he can do damage on. Dirden creates a lot of loft when his bat head gets out front, and knows when to flip a competitive offering the other way. Similarly to Colin Barber, he makes up for mediocre exit velocity readings (86 MPH AVG EV) by pulling a ton of fly balls, which his swing is geared to generate. His game power is maximized, as Dirden can and does put his hardest contact in the air, but I’m not sold that the raw power is anything above a 50 considering a max EV below the MLB average 108 MPH (in the data I have access to). He’s 25 and relegated to a corner outfield spot, so Dirden’s upside as a defensively limited strong-side platoon option – if he can make up for not hitting the ball that hard overall – is reflected in his ranking here. Yell at me about the statline production if you must.
Reminds me of: Corey Dickerson
#23. Andrew Taylor (RHP, 21, A, ETA: 2027)
Fastball: 50/60, Slider: 40/55, Curve: 45/45, Changeup: 40/60, Command: 35/55, AVG 90.4, T94 MPH.
Taylor’s carrying pitch is his fastball, parked in the low 90s with Cristian Javier invisiball traits, around 20 inches of induced vertical break (IVB), and 10.5 inches of horizonal break (HB). He’s a young college draftee, taken after setting the strikeout record 2 years in a row at Central Michigan. Big and lanky with an unpolished whirling dervish of a delivery mechanism, Taylor is a developmental project (newly 21 years old) with rotation potential if the Astros can coax more velocity out of him, without losing the spectacular shape on his fastball. Additionally, he’s got some feel for spin with two distinct breaking balls, although neither are great at present: He hardly ever threw a gyro slider in college that I actually like the shape of, instead relying on great feel for placing his slow curveball down in chase zones, the shape of which is less appealing. Taylor’s changeup was devastating in college, as many are, with plus movement by the measurables.
Reminds me of: Jake Odorizzi
#24. Luke Berryhill (C, 24, AA, ETA: 2023)
Hit: 30/35, Power: 50/55, Run: 25/25, Field: 45/50, Arm: 40
Berryhill has a backup catcher outlook, assuming he’d prefer it to his lifelong dream of being a country singing superstar. Cionel Perez’s trade return was the Astros Minor League Player of The Year in 2021 thanks to above average power, the ability to hit fastballs, and truly elite plate discipline. I have never seen as low of a chase rate as Luke Berryhill’s AA campaign in 2022. In Berryhill’s sophomore season with the organization, he spent it entirely at the AA level and posted above average production. Berryhill has many of the same concerns I wrote about with Lee, dialed up to 11. I’m not at all convinced the bat-to-ball is real enough at the next levels, particularly on sliders – which, to Berryhill’s credit, he does simply spit on if they are not in a hittable part of the zone. He’s got a very stiff bat path without the requisite feel for adjusting to all corners of the zone, and requires a mistake pitch to hammer. He does look pretty good moving around behind the plate, and interacts energetically with Corpus’s pitching staff. Berryhill’s slow transfer on throws, on the other hand, means he might get run on all day.
Reminds me of: Chris Iannetta.
#25. Jayden Murray (RHP, 25, AA, ETA: 2023)
Fastball: 50/55, Slider: 50/55, Changeup: 45/60, Command: 45/50, Sits 90-94, T96 MPH.
Jayden Murray presents a contact management five-and-dive profile thanks to his sinking 2-seamer and downward tilted slider. He’s got a tight, efficient arm circle that comes from great layback and scap retraction, and what looks like big league command at present. The two seamer lives in the low-90s and struggles to miss bats outright but also generates a fair amount of ground balls to same-handed batters thanks to Murray’s willingness to live down in the zone, while he tries to induce chases down and away often with his slider. Against lefties, a changeup with an exceptional movement profile flashes – like with many arms in the Astros system over the last half-decade or so, I find myself wishing their philosophy would allow for Murray to attack with more right-on-right changeups. Tangent aside, lefties have a similar amount of difficulty squaring up Murray’s offerings, since the fastball tails away from the barrel effectively – more in the form of soft contact than ground balls, however. Unprotected and surprisingly undrafted in Rule 5, Murray looks like an emergency starter for this upcoming season.
Reminds me of: Merrill Kelly.
#26. Camilo Diaz (SS, 17, DSL, ETA: 2029)
Hit: 25/45, Power: 30/55, Run: 60/55, Field: 30/50, Arm: 55.
As I would often write when discussing Dauri Lorenzo, Cristian Gonzalez, and other teenaged international signings in complex ball: I don’t like to pretend I know things I don’t. Information on international signings is scarce, and I can only be so plugged in. Diaz earned a bonus exceeding $2m from Houston, displays premium position athleticism, and has a really exceptionally beautiful BP swing with easy raw power. He’s big and projectible with a deep hip hinge, loud present pullside juice, some barrel dexterity, and the motions to stick somewhere on the infield dirt. He’s also 17 and won’t make his stateside debut for a while, so I’ll wait until I see Diaz in affiliated ball before making any kind of real statement.
Reminds me of: I think this kid might be a big fan of Manny Machado.
#27. Zach Daniels (OF, 24, AA, ETA: 2024)
Hit: 30/35, Power: 70/70, Run: 60/55, Field: 45/50, Arm: 45.
Honestly, good on the Astros for taking the shot on Daniels in the 4th round of 2020. He performed for all of 17 collegiate games at Tennessee in the COVID-shortened year, and never hit on the Cape. It was a real risk that their hitting development could work with the clay. Yet, with all the massive strikeout concerns, Daniels posted a 140 wRC+ in High-A (cold water moment, as a 23 year old) and has certainly learned to stick his barrel on professional fastballs. The breaking stuff is still a bit of a problem and he expands the zone too much. but Daniels has truly stupid thump in his bat and has handled professional pitching better than I ever expected. He’s made fantastic adjustments year-over-year, and now looks like a completely different hitter than he did on draft day. He’s more upright now at the plate with quieter hands, handles outside fastballs extremely well, and shows off dead center light-tower power on mistake pitches. Tapping into his double-plus rotational power now, Daniels smoked 23 homers and stole 22 bases in 2022. I dubbed him my favorite in the “just missed” section to make my 2023 list on last publication, and here he is. Daniels can hold his own in all three outfield spots, although I think he’s absolutely better suited for a corner, probably left with a fringy arm.
Reminds me of: D.J Peters.
#28. Zach Dezenzo (3B/2B/COF, 22, A, ETA: 2026)
Hit: 30/35, Power: 70/70, Run: 45/45, Field: 40/45, Arm: 50.
There happen to be two Zach D.’s with elite power and massive strikeout concerns in this system. It only made sense to put them together. Dezenzo was one of my draft crushes, with a beautifully powerful uppercut swing fully geared to obliterate baseballs into the stratosphere. That power goes to all fields, fairly often resulting in oppo tacos. He led all of college baseball in batted balls >98 MPH as Ohio State’s shortstop, and posted a 115.7 Max EV. His loading mechanism has about ninety moving parts including a comically massive leg kick while his hands drop into a firing slot, but it’s not one I would say needs dialing back, necessarily. Dezenzo has a real knack for covering the upper half of the zone despite a bat path that would suggest otherwise. It all looks a little bit like Zach Neto, the Angels first-rounder, although Neto’s bat-to-ball is infinitely more polished. Dezenzo’s flaw is in his swing decisions, where he has a propensity to chase outside the zone and lacks the pure hit ability to consistently make contact, much less tap into his raw power out there. The contact rates generally also aren’t great in the zone, but they’re actually better than someone like Ryan Clifford’s. While a shortstop in college, there’s no way he stays there as a pro. He’s got below average foot speed and a strong arm, so 3B seems the most likely destination. However, the Astros always teach these guys corner outfield spots and they’re actually using Dezenzo as a power-hitting second baseman for now.
Reminds me of: Zach Neto’s plate setup with Luke Voit’s results.
#29. Logan Cerny (OF, 23, A, ETA: 2025)
Hit: 30/35, Power: 55/60, Run: 70/70, Field: 45/55, Arm: 50.
Alright, we’re gonna triple it up on the toolsy outfield freaks, and there are not many louder combination of tools anywhere than Logan Cerny. He smoked 15 long balls and swiped 35 bags last year. Cerny did that with an elite twitchy athlete body and frame that’s not even close to filled out, even though he’s 23. I’ve been told he’s still having trouble keeping on weight, leading in part to his overall streakiness as a hitter. The swing decisions are alright, but Cerny does struggle to simply put wood to ball enough to advance as rapidly as he’s going to need to. When he does make contact, his lightning quick hips and whippy barrel generate fantastic quality of contact results, especially to the pullside. And there’s not much of a question of whether he will be able to handle center field thanks to 70 speed and good jumps out there. Cerny needs to make a half-grade more contact to let me believe he will handle AA breaking stuff, and the book isn’t closed.
Reminds me of: Bo Bichette.
#30. Collin Price (C, 22, A, ETA: 2026)
Hit: 30/40, Power: 40/55, Run: 45/45, Field: 35/50, Arm: 55.
Every system has a weird outlier, so enter Collin Price – a 6’6 catcher who flashed excellent over-the-fence ability despite a line drive approach, in addition to a serious bump in his batted ball quality as a senior at Mercer. While suddenly making the most of his plus pop, Price displayed excellent plate discipline over his collegiate career. He ran a sub-15% chase rate, giving him a high floor as an on-base minded catcher, so long as he stays at the position.
It’s hard to even make the argument that a 6’6 catcher is going to stick at the position as he advances, but I can’t point to a specific reason why Price wouldn’t be able to. He goes with the one-knee-down setup at the plate, helping nab strikes at the bottom of the zone like any other, and with throws clocked near the mid-80s his arm is certainly not a problem behind the plate. He’s also athletic enough to move out to a corner outfield spot, if the catching necessitates it.
Reminds me of: I don’t know, you ever seen a 6’6 catcher before? A.J. Ellis.
#31. Quincy Hamilton (OF, 24, AA, ETA: 2024)
Hit: 40/55, Power: 30/35, Run: 50/50, Field: 45/50, Arm: 45.
Hamilton is a high-floored fourth outfield look with carrying on-base prowess thanks to a wonderful blend of plus contact skills and plate discipline. He also has above average raw power somewhere in there, but might be salutorian at the Marty Costes School of Flat Bat Paths. Therefore, he makes as little as possible out of solid exit velocities, although has made some small strides in that area since his time as a draftee. Hamilton’s stocky and built, with some stiffness as an athlete. The swing can get mechanical at times, but as a professional he has tapped into some more wood bat power. The reworked bat path is tailor-made to launch a grooved fastball out past dead center, but Hamilton still slaps singles up the middle more often than anything else. It looks like a swing that will rely on elevated fastballs to do its real damage, but most of the time Hamilton simply excels at being a walk-drawing, chip-shot hitting pest. He’s an average to above average runner who could probably stand in center field in a pinch but would only provide any defensive value in a corner.
Reminds me of: Tony Kemp
#32. Kenni Gomez (OF, 17, DSL, ETA: 2028)
Hit: 25/50, Power: 25/40, Run: 60/55, Field: 30/50, Arm: 50.
Here’s another complex guy where I have to repeat my disclaimer that I typically don’t like including players who I know relatively little about. In conversations with some Astros scouting department folks, Gomez repeatedly comes up as an advanced stick who should be ahead of someone like Luis Baez at present, and one who likely makes his stateside, and possibly full-season debut in 2023. I like Baez a little more despite his potentially positionless landing spot, but I’ll defer to the professionals here. Gomez showed out well in the DSL, hitting .294 with a 141 wRC+ across 121 plate appearances, although buying in to DSL statlines is typically a fool’s errand. He works laterally with his swing and keeps his hands inside the ball exceptionally well, while a quick hip flip allows for the bat head to play out in front. Reportedly, he’s also bulked up considerably since signing in January of 2022, profiling as a hit-over-power corner outfielder with great feel for loft in his swing that might maximize the game power when all is said and done.
Reminds me of: David Peralta
#33. Tyler Guilfoil (RHP, 23, A, ETA: 2024)
Fastball: 55/60, Slider: 45/50, Changeup: 55/60, Command: 45/55, AVG 91.8, T95 MPH.
Tyler Guilfoil has one of those special fastballs that was always going to play up thanks to modern pitching philosophies. In single-inning stints, it gets into the mid-90s with 19 inches of IVB and 12.1 inches of horizontal break. All this comes from a uniquely low and deceptive 5.4 foot release point, leading to flat VAA readings on a fastball that, while not exactly lighting up radar guns, explodes up above the barrel of a hitter. He commands the pitch really well out of a funky short-armed release, with some back-turning deception and a late, blink-and-you-miss-it hip trigger. Guilfoil had one of the best debut months of any draftee in baseball, striking out half of all the hitters he faced. His slider can get squirrely with lots of variance in its movement – sometimes it shows a lot more sweep, but typically relies on downward bite to induce chases. If it was thrown a little bit harder I’d call it a plus slider, but it does play well off the fastball. The college electronics categorized it as a curveball, but it sure looks like a slower and vertically oriented slider to me. Add a plus changeup with 16.2 inches of horizontal break to the arsenal, and Guilfoil starts to look really intriguing. He was so dominant in his short stint of A-ball that it makes me wonder that the ceiling really is. Granted, he’s a newly 23 year old career reliever, but with unproblematic command and three useable pitches, one of which being a near-unicorn fastball, the sky might be the limit.
Reminds me of: This is a really unique pitcher. Paul Sewald?
#34. Cristian Gonzalez (SS, 21, A+, ETA: 2026)
Hit: 30/40, Power: 25/35, Run: 55/55, Field: 50/55, Arm: 60.
Cristian Gonzalez is a projectable, tall left-side infielder who keeps receiving advanced assignments and has not shown the development as a hitter that you’d hope at this point. However, he’s got good defensive actions with a cannon of an arm at shortstop, could move over to third, and has a lot of room to grow still. Newly 21 years old, most of Gonzalez’s problems stem from simply not being able to impact the ball enough. He’s 6’5 with a deep barrel bath, but the swing looks like it’s always going to rely more on strength than plus bat speed. Accordingly, Gonzalez tacking on some weight with physical maturity is likely to help his offensive profile more than most. He uses an overly aggressive line-drive oriented approach, looking to pull the ball over the shortstop’s head. Gonzalez showed up in 2022 with a much deeper hip hinge and a more vertical bat path, but didn’t change his batted ball profile noticeably – still, most of his hard contact is on the ground. His aggression at the plate curbs a lot of the good development that’s come along, but he’s still young for his level and does not have to be an above average hitter to provide value thanks to the premium position defense.
Reminds me of: Erik Gonzalez (no relation).
#35. Alex Santos II (RHP, 21, A, ETA: 2025)
Fastball: 40/55, Curveball: 45/55, Slider: 45/50, Changeup: 40/45, Command: 30/45, Sits 89-93, T94.
Santos’s calling cards at this point are his feel for spin and two plus breaking balls, with the big sweeping curveball ahead of a tight slider at present and future. He has also slid outside of the top ten of these lists, because he lost three ticks of fastball velocity in his sophomore pro season. After topping out at 97 in his first pro season, with mid-90s coming more than occasionally, Santos didn’t come particularly close to that in 2022. It looks like Santos still isn’t quite mechanically maximizing, with an aura of lanky unfinished rawness. He cuts across his body diagonally, and the delivery isn’t as easy and consistent as it projected as a prep prospect. Regardless, Santos has turned himself into a 4-pitch backend starter profile who isn’t afraid to pitch backwards (likely out of necessity, considering the middling fastball at present) and if his velocity can return in 2023 he could fly up this list in short order. Only 21, it’s easy to get overly harsh and forget that he’d be a draft-eligible junior this year if he went to school. Everything here depends on enigmatic fastball development, sort of appropriate for a prospect whose delivery I once dubbed similar to Josh James.
Reminds me of: Adrian Houser
#36. Tyler Whitaker (IF/OF, 20, A, ETA: 2026)
Hit: 25/30, Power: 35/60, Run: 60/55, Field: 45/55, Arm: 60.
Whitaker showed his first sign of life at the tail end of his 2022 season, posting a 110 wRC+ from July 30th (the day I finished writing my last list) until the end of the season. it was his first stretch of above-average production as a pro after floundering for about a half-season. He kept his K rate under 30% over that positive stretch, and displayed some real power. In the last list, I said that Whitaker was a projection play in the draft and is a projection play still, thanks to his plus power and athleticism. I also noted that his swing is “laughably downward sloping” at present. I’ll stand by both of those. However, this indication that Whitaker is adjusting to professional pitching is tremendously encouraging. Whitaker is more athletic than I gave credit for last year, sliding around shortstop, third base, and all over the outfield. He’s a really solid defender with excellent instincts anywhere, the glove particularly smooth and reliable at third base. His swing is more controlled than it was as a draftee, but not yet geared to put his plus power in the air – instead resulting in a lot of left-side ground balls. With the contact skills slowly improving, his next big developmental step will be to add some steepness into the swing, given his lack of the requisite barrel control to consistently lift the ball with a flat bat path. Whitaker also still can’t legally buy himself a beer, so he’s got a while.
Reminds me of: Hunter Renfroe
#37. Parker Mushinski (LHP, 27, MLB, ETA: 2022)
Fastball: 50/50, Slider: 55/55, Curve: 60/60, Cutter: 55/60, Changeup: 30/35, Command: 45/50, AVG 92.5, T94.4 MPH.
Mushinski will likely stay in the big leagues for a good while as a junk-balling lefty, since all three of the offspeed offerings are plus and he’ll induce chases with all of them. He releases from a relative low point, at 5.5 feet, letting his middling velocity on the fastball play up at the top of the zone, with a 5 VAA. Parker has a multi-inning mop-up profile, but can also function as a lefty specialist if required, thanks to his breaking balls that all look like lefty killers. The models I use see Mushinski with above average strikeout stuff (105.3, with 100 being league average), significantly above average contact management skills (110.7), and slightly below average command and control (99.5). That’s a very capable big-league lefty relief piece.
Reminds me of: Andrew Chafin.
#38. Edinson Batista (RHP, 20, A+, ETA: 2025)
Fastball: 45/50, Slider: 50/60, Curveball: 40/45, Changeup: 30/35, Command: 50/60, Sits 92-93, T95 MPH.
Batista is a pitchability-inclined 5th starter type with a running fastball up to 95 and an average-moving slider he relies on heavily. The delivery is smooth and controlled, consistently placing pitches where Batista wants them to be out of a horizontally prioritized 3/4ths arm slot. He’s also got a decent curveball to steal strikes in the zone, but mostly succeeds because he can put his slider in the low-and-away chase zone five times in a row when needed. The fastball plays better inside, susceptible to damage when it leaks out over the middle of the zone. It manages contact fine at present, although I’d bet on upper minors hitters changing that formula, were Batista to crack AA with no velocity gains. A fine mound mover with a fluid release, Batista could be a nice big league long man if his offspeeds pick up a little bit of ferocity and bite as he gets stronger.
Reminds me of: Sonny Gray
#39. Nolan DeVos (RHP, 22, A, ETA: 2026)
Fastball: 50/55, Slider: 50/60, Curveball: 35/45, Changeup: 40/45, Command: 30/40, Sits 91-94 T96 MPH.
DeVos is a sturdy right handed multi-inning relief look who combines a low-release 4-seam with plus IVB and a plus slider by its velocity + sweep combination. He has an explosive push off his back leg and thorough connection to his lower body, letting him get down the mound extremely effectively. The release comes with a good amount of effort, driving the reliever designation despite four useable offerings. His fastball blew up the very small A-ball sample in his debut, resulting in a 42 K% over 12 innings of work. It has true rise up to the top of the zone, with little to no horizontal break – and DeVos is well aware of the pitch’s effectiveness when located northwards. He spins both breakers off of that high fastball approach, with the slider ahead at present and future. DeVos didn’t differentiate his curveball and slider enough by their movement in college, so I’d look for the curve to get scrapped, or for a shape tweak to maximize its effectiveness against lefties soon.
Reminds me of: Joe Barlow.
#40. Ronel Blanco (RHP, 29, MLB, ETA: 2022)
Fastball: 60/60, Slider: 60/60, Changeup: 30/35, Curveball: 30/35, Command: 35/35, AVG 95.7, T99 MPH.
Taking the final spot on the Astros Top Prospects list is Ronel Blanco. A massive-framed older international signing who got his professional start at 22 years old, Blanco has been holding down closer roles in the minors for three years now. He sets his whole arsenal up with his plus fastball, getting elite extension in the upper 90s with 16′ of IVB. He ran a 31 CSW% on the pitch in the full AAA season. A cutter-y slider has come about better than I would have expected, sitting in the low 90s in its own right with enough sweep to miss bats. It posted a 53% whiff rate in AAA. Those are the only two pitches Blanco needs to fulfill his big league reliever outlook, but he does flash a bad changeup with only 7 MPH separation from the fastball and below average fade. Even more rarely, Blanco will play around with a worse curveball. He’s a low-variance relief prospect, the extreme ends of which are dependent on how well he zones his fastball. He might be a team’s 11th reliever, and he might be their 4th, but Blanco is a big leaguer in some capacity.
Overall, the Houston Astros farm system has some impact talent left in it but is aptly placed in the back half of the national lists. I’m higher on some names (Tamarez, Arrighetti, Perez) and lower (Dirden, Murray) than you’ll find on others. Plenty of these dream chasers are non-roster invitees to Spring Training, and I’ll enjoy all the talks and takes as always when the games get underway. If you read this far, I sincerely appreciate it, and I hope that you enjoyed it. These system overviews are a labor of love, so thank you for giving me a reason to do them.
- Benjamin Zeidman (@midzee4)